Occupational Asthma Reference

Burge PS, Robertson AS, Cullinan P, Howell TJ, Obliterative Bronchiolitis in Boatbuilders Exposed to Styrene and Isocyanates, Am J Respir Crit Care Med, 2008;177:a157,

Keywords: bronchiolitis, boatbuilder, fibreglass, styrene, isocyanate, histology

Known Authors

Paul Cullinan, Royal Brompton Hospital, London, UK Paul Cullinan

Sherwood Burge, Oasys Sherwood Burge

Alastair Robertson, Selly Oak Hospital Alastair Robertson

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The identification of bronchiolitis in workers exposed to diacetyl prompted us to look for connections between workers previously identified by us with obliterative bronchiolitis, the cause for which had not been identified. Three non-smoking workers were identified who all had the same job laying up fibreglass hulls of motor yachts. Two worked in the same boat builders and the other was making similar boats elsewhere. The disease came on rapidly in all workers, and was confirmed in one by histology after lung transplant. A further worker from the first boat builder was also affected but had also been a heavy smoker. The lung function (as percent predicted) is shown in the table.
The cause of the bronchiolitis has not been established. Their major exposure was to styrene used to bond the fibreglass. Other materials included an unsaturated polyester gelcoat, sections of rigid MDI foam which heated after styrene application, methylethylketone peroxide used as a catalyst and solvents used to clean brushes. We have no information relating to the possibility of methyl isocyanate exposure. Epidemiological studies of similarly exposed workers are needed.

Lung function percent predicted Index case Workmate New workplace
Age 31 43 54
Latent interval to first symptom 6 months 1 year 4 years
FEV1 18 36 66
FVC 56 97 118
FEF50 8 10 22
DLCO 73 96 102
Smoking pack years 0 0 <1

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